As we approach a brand new year it seems appropriate that we take a step back to reflect as well as look ahead to the future. Thus, I wanted to take a moment to open a dialogue with you over some items to look for in 2012.
You may have heard, or even felt, the fresh winds of change beginning to swirl around the halls and corridors of Redeemer. I truly feel the Holy Spirit’s hand at work among us to prepare us for a future harvest beyond our imagination. The question is, “Are we willing to trust the open door He has placed before us?” We must always be ready for the Spirit’s guiding and growing in our lives (Rev 3:7-13). As I look back and reflect upon what has led us to this point, there is no question that God’s fingerprints are all over the place! Personally, He has been hard at work in my life growing me in so many ways. If I were to sit down and write about the many ways He has been stretching me these past twelve months it would take volumes to share everything, so for now I will just leave it at that. This isn’t about me anyway, it is about God and His desires as the Great Shepherd of the sheep among the flock.
This is a story that goes back long before I arrived on the scene in August of 2010. In fact, this is a story going back to Fall of 2009 when Redeemer sought to fill a pastoral vacancy as the church went through a time of mission and ministry assessment. Three key elements clearly rose to the surface as congregational needs: (1) children and family ministry, (2) the need for connecting with the next generation, and (3) missions/outreach. Shortly after my arrival, we brought in a consultant during January 2011 to once again lead us through a congregational assessment. The same results for needed growth came forth: children and family, reaching the next generation, and missions/outreach. Hence, we immediately began a process exploring how we might best achieve these goals. This has been a process in which we have sought to include as many people as possible along the way. I am so proud of the congregation and its leadership for taking a bold step of faith at last November’s Voter’s Assembly in moving one step closer toward the exploration of something a little different at Redeemer. As a result, we are working towards three main goals. First, we are looking to bring on a Director of Christian Education (DCE) Intern to focus on Children and Family Ministry. Second, we will continue to plan for a second worship service with a more modern style to reach the next generation. Finally, we will look at facility improvement along the way which in turn should support our efforts in missions and outreach.
Change is never easy.
Thus, in the coming year as we step toward the above efforts there will be many opportunities to provide input to the process. Plans are also in the works for some educational pieces around Lutheran worship from experts within the Missouri District. These are weighty matters which the Board of Elders, Council, and myself humbly seek your committed prayers in the coming months as we together, hand-in-hand, seek to bring forth a God-pleasing, outreach-focused, faith-stretching, Christ-centered plan that honors who we are as a Lutheran community of faith. As with any congregational change there are still many questions we are seeking to answer, but it is our promise and intent to keep you informed through various means such as our church website, the monthly newsletter, roundtable forums, and periodic congregational updates as the process unfolds.
Redeemer is a special place! What makes the church special has nothing to do with the building, the potlucks (which are truly amazing by the way), or dare I say, even its pastor and people? What makes Redeemer the special church that it is, is the continued commitment by its leaders and members to keep Christ as the center of who we are. This commitment is the compass, glue, and driving force upon which our existence has been founded as a mission congregation back in 1974, and upon which we presently seek to build (1 Peter 2:9). It is a true privilege and honor to serve you as pastor, and I look forward to the upcoming year to see all God has in store for us as His faithful people.
At a moment like this, I am reminded of Nehemiah who was an incredible leader, standing in the gap for God. As he painfully watched his homeland falling into decay and irrelevance, God placed within him the vision for a plan to rebuild Jerusalem’s fallen wall in such a way that would honor the past yet look ahead to the future. As Nehemiah began a journey toward change it is fascinating to hear his coming to grips with the vision God placed on his heart. Listen to his passionate prayer in response to fallen Jerusalem:
As soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven. And I said, “O Lord God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, let your ear be attentive and your eyes open, to hear the prayer of your servant that I now pray before you day and night for the people of Israel your servants, confessing the sins of the people of Israel, which we have sinned against you. Even I and my father’s house have sinned.” (Nehemiah 1:4-6)
So Nehemiah sought to rebuild the wall. In this pursuit, he faced a journey of self-examination and personal growth as he worked to bring about some pretty significant changes. God worked mightily through this man of God! I am by no means suggesting we are a decaying or irrelevant church, but the truth is, there is much we can learn from his pursuit in carrying out God’s vision. First and foremost, did you notice the first place Nehemiah turned in his pursuit of change? He fell flat on his face before the throne of God through prayer. He realized the task setting before him was greater than what he could accomplish by himself. His actions, time and time again, show an unwavering passion for God. This passion spilled over into everything he put his hands on. Second, it led him to formulate a clear vision of God’s purpose and plan for the people. This was a defining moment for Nehemiah and God’s people. The same could be said for us as well.
It is my hope, as we look ahead to the future God has in store for us as His church, the truths and passion of Nehemiah would spill over into our lives as well: (1) keeping God first in our discussions and decisions, (2) intentionally consistent prayer, and (3) trusting the Lord’s leadership.
As we take steps toward a year with some change, it is important that we lavish each other with an overabundant amount of God’s grace. Take a deep breath and love on each other, encourage one another, and enjoy each other’s fellowship. This will go a long way in the change process. Most importantly, if you have questions along the way, please feel free to connect with one of our dedicated elders: Scott, Eric, Gary, Ted, or myself. Our doors are open!
“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light.” (1 Peter 2:9)
Keeping God First!